[ISEA2011] Panel: John Tonkin – Com­put­ers as metaphor, minds as com­put­ers: notes to­wards a dys­func­tional ro­bot­ics

Panel Statement

Panel: Signs of Life: Human-Robot Intersubjectivities

This paper will pre­sent a range of ideas un­der­pin­ning the de­vel­op­ment of John Tonkin’s new pro­ject, a se­ries of dys­func­tional ro­bots that ex­plore dif­fer­ent ap­proaches to think­ing about cog­ni­tion and per­cep­tion. Com­pu­ta­tional the­o­ries of mind have been used both by cog­ni­tive sci­en­tists as model of how to build an elec­tronic mind, and by cog­ni­tive psy­chol­o­gists as a means of un­der­stand­ing the human mind. They see the mind as an in­for­ma­tion-pro­cess­ing sys­tem and thought as a form of com­pu­ta­tion. These sym­bolic ap­proaches to think­ing about the mind have been chal­lenged by more em­bod­ied and em­bed­ded ap­proaches to cog­ni­tion and per­cep­tion. This has been re­flected through the de­vel­op­ment of a num­ber of bot­tom-up ap­proaches to AI and ro­bot­ics, such as neural net­works and be­hav­iour based ro­bots that are based on ideas of re­ac­tiv­ity and sit­u­at­ed­ness rather than higher level sym­bolic mod­el­ling. The ner­vous ro­bots that are being built for this pro­ject awk­wardly hy­bridise bot­tom-up AI ap­proaches with more clas­si­cal sym­bolic ap­proaches that use high level sym­bols drawn from a folk psy­chol­ogy con­cep­tion of the mind as being the home of in­ter­nal men­tal processes such as mo­tives, de­sires, pho­bias and neu­roses. They use a range of com­pu­ta­tional ap­proaches, for ex­am­ple Brooks’ sub­sump­tion ar­chi­tec­ture, to cre­ate lay­ered hi­er­ar­chies of stim­u­lus / re­sponse re­flexes. Ex­am­ples in­clude a claus­tro­phobot and an ago­ra­phobot, as well as needy/dis­mis­sive ro­bots based around at­tach­ment the­ory. One of the aims of this pro­ject is to ex­plore the lower bound­ary of com­pu­ta­tional com­plex­ity that still evokes some sort of self-iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and re­sponse in the au­di­ence.

  • John Tonkin is a Syd­ney (AU) based media artist who began work­ing with new media in 1985. In 1999-2000 he re­ceived a fel­low­ship from the Aus­tralia Coun­cil’s New Media Arts Board. His work ex­plores in­ter­ac­tiv­ity as a site for phys­i­cal and men­tal play. Re­cent pro­jects have used real-time 3d an­i­ma­tion, vi­su­al­i­sa­tion and data-map­ping tech­nolo­gies and cus­tom built and pro­grammed elec­tron­ics. His works have often in­volved build­ing frame­works / tools / toys within which the art­work is formed through the ac­cu­mu­lated in­ter­ac­tions of its users. John cur­rently lec­tures within the Dig­i­tal Cul­tures Pro­gram, at the Uni­ver­sity of Syd­ney and is un­der­tak­ing a prac­tice based PhD at COFA, UNSW. His cur­rent re­search is around cy­ber­net­ics, em­bod­ied cog­ni­tion and sit­u­ated per­cep­tion. He is build­ing a num­ber of ner­vous ro­bots that em­body com­pu­ta­tional mod­els of mind and re­spon­sive en­vi­ron­ments that form a kind of dy­nam­i­cally cou­pled en­ac­tive per­cep­tual ap­pa­ra­tus. Re­cent major ex­hi­bi­tions have in­cluded Media City Seoul – 2nd In­ter­na­tional Media Art Bi­en­nale; Seoul Mu­seum of Art 2002, Ozone; Pom­pi­dou Cen­ter Paris 2003,  Dig­i­tal Sub­lime – New Mas­ters of Uni­verse; Mu­seum of Con­tem­po­rary Art, Taipei 2004, Strange Weather; Sher­man Gal­leries 2005. Wood Street Gal­leries, Pitts­burgh 2007, Na­tional New Media Art Award Ex­hi­bi­tion, Gallery of Mod­ern Art (GOMA)  Queens­land Art Gallery 2008 and Night­shifters Per­for­mance Space Syd­ney (2010). Col­lab­o­ra­tive pro­jects at Art­space 2005, and ISEA2006 (San Jose).

Full text (PDF) p. 2407-2410